SPORTS >> Pop at plate propels Devils
Leader sports editor
Jacksonville didn’t take spring break off, but its hitters had a picnic last week.
The Red Devils went 2-1 in the Extra Innings Tournament in northeast Arkansas, beating Wynne 12-7 and Pine Bluff 17-3 while taking a 9-5 loss to Lake Hamilton.
“Overall we swung it like we’ve been swinging it, pretty decent,” Jacksonville coach Larry Burrows said.
The 16-team, non-conference tournament was held over three days on fields at Jonesboro and Nettleton High School and at Tomlinson Stadium-Kell Field on the Arkansas State campus.
Burrows, whose team was coming off an error-filled, 4-1 loss to non-conference rival Cabot, didn’t want the Red Devils to get rusty during the week off from school and was happy for the chance to get in some games despite a rainy weekend.
“You get to play some different people than you’re accustomed to playing,” Burrows said. “During spring break you definitely don’t want to sit and do nothing. They take care of us pretty good up there. Once again we got three games in.
“You just don’t want to stop momentum in the middle of the season by taking off.”
Jacksonville (8-3) certainly kept its momentum going at the plate.
With the run cushions, Jesse Harbin picked up the victory against Wynne while Nick Rodriguez relieved Noah Sanders to get the win against Pine Bluff. Mike Lamb took the loss against Lake Hamilton, as the Devils committed four errors in a game that unfortunately reminded Burrows of the five-error outing against Cabot.
“I wasn’t happy with the way we played against Lake Hamilton,” Burrows said. “We felt like we gave away some at-bats and their pitcher was a little bit better than the others we faced down there. When we got in there and competed we hit him pretty good too. Ithink we out-hit them. It looked like the Cabot game.”
But if the Red Devils have had trouble hanging on to the ball at times, they haven’t had much trouble hitting it.
Leadoff man Jacob Abraham-son had five hits and a home run in the three games while No. 2 hitter D’Vone McClure, a sophomore, had seven hits. No. 9 hitter Logan Perry also had seven hits.
“He’d been scuffling a little bit, good to see him come on,” Burrows said of Perry.
Perry, Abrahamson and McClure are also the Devils’ fastest base runners.
“Perry at No. 9 hole, that sort of gives us three guys that can run back to back to back,” Burrows said.
With the speedy hitters setting the table, catcher Patrick Castleberry has thrived at the No. 3 spot. He had eight hits and 10 RBI during the tournament to run his season RBI total to 31.
“I think 30 led us last year,” Burrows said.
Castleberry, a junior, may be setting himself up for a baseball scholarship to a solid program, Burrows said.
“He’s getting it done. We’re hoping he’s going to sign pretty good next year,” Burrows said.
But Burrows said the key to Jacksonville’s big numbers might be the underclassmen.
McClure is batting .500 and Harbin, a sophomore who has also hit No. 2, is batting over .400. Burrows said he expected experienced juniors like Castleberry and senior Caleb Mitchell to produce.
The sophomores have been a pleasant surprise.
“I expected them to hit. I don’t know if I expected them to hit this early,” Burrows said. “I expected them to come on at the end.”